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Union official cleared over $200m tower strike

A UNION assistant secretary has been cleared of organising industrial action at a $200 million Brisbane office tower construction site, when 110 workers walked off the job.

A judge accepted Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union official Jade Ingham entered Watpac's 180 Brisbane construction site to raise money for an injured member.

Federal Court justice Berna Collier also found Mr Ingham and the union did not organise the June 26, 2014, work stoppage that took place after members then raised workplace issues.

The Australian Building and Construction Commission had claimed Mr Ingham intentionally hindered or obstructed Watpac and subcontractors by causing 110 workers to leave the site.

While Mr Ingham's arrival was a catalyst for subsequent industrial action, it was possible workers used the opportunity to raise issues that provoked

industrial action, the judge said.

However, Justice Collier found four other union officials who entered the Watpac site over following days, prior to work stoppages, breached right of entry provisions.

The judge did not accept the union's argument that Watpac had an "open door policy'' with respect to site entry by union employees or officials.

Watpac had written to the union saying it required union representatives to issue a valid notice of entry and hold a valid entry permit before going onto a work site.

None of the five union representatives, including Mr Ingham, presented notices of proposed entry before going to the site in June and July, 2014.

 

CFMMEU assistant secretary Jade Ingham
CFMMEU assistant secretary Jade Ingham

 

Justice Collier found one union organiser, Chad Bragdon, organised industrial action when he went to the site on July 17,2014, when subcontractors stopped work for more than three and a half hours.

Mr Bragdon said he went to the site after a worker phoned him about issues.

Justice Collier said a meeting with workers and subsequent stoppage were an excuse for Mr Bragdon to discuss general workplace issues in working hours.

The judge found Mr Bragdon was not entitled to enter the site without giving notice and he intentionally hindered or obstructed Watpac by persisting to convene a meeting of workers.

Justice Collier found the CFMMEU was liable for the Fair Work Act contraventions of the four workers. She is yet to make a final decision on penalties against the CFMEU.

The court heard Mr Ingham was one of 19 CFMMEU officials hit with fines over a 2013 campaign against builder John Holland, which including stopping for six days at the $777 million Enoggera Army Barracks project and the $60 million QUT Kelvin Grove campus.

He was controversially appointed to Queensland Building and Construction Commission last year.

In a separate Federal Court case, the ABCC claims the union, including Mr Ingham, threatened unlawful strike action at a Gold Coast worksite unless a delegate was reinstated.

There is yet to be a decision.